Actor Patton Oswalt laid bare his grief for all the world to see and feel on Facebook Monday.
His wife, crime writer Michelle McNamara, died in her sleep on April 21 at the age of 46. She left behind Oswalt, their 7-year-old daughter Alice and an unwritten book which Oswalt is finishing for her.
Grief, he writes, is worse than depression, a feeling seconded in the thousands of comments piling up on his Facebook page.
“Michelle McNamara got yanked off the planet and out of life 102 days ago,” leaving him “face-down and frozen for weeks,” he writes.
The last 102 days have felt like “102 years.”
“If you spend 102 days completely focused on ONE thing you can achieve miracles. Make a film, write a novel, get MMA ripped, kick heroin, learn a language, travel around the world. Fall in love with someone. Get 'em to love you back,” he writes.
“But 102 days at the mercy of grief and loss feels like 102 years and you have (nothing) to show for it. You will not be physically healthier. You will not feel ‘wiser.’ You will not have ‘closure.’ You will not have ‘perspective’ or ‘resilience’ or ‘a new sense of self.’ You WILL have solid knowledge of fear, exhaustion and a new appreciation for the randomness and horror of the universe.”
But, he writes, “you will have been shown new levels of humanity and grace and intelligence by your family and friends. They will show up for you, physically and emotionally, in ways which make you take careful note, and say to yourself, ‘Make sure to try to do that for someone else someday.’”
His essay has been shared more than 16,000 times on Facebook, his words striking a strong and emotional chord with thousands who have left messages of encouragement and thanks in the span of just a few hours. Many people have opened up about the grief pressing on their own hearts.
“You don't know me, have never met me, and have no idea what an effect you have had on me with your humor and passion. Tonight, you sliced directly into my heart with your honesty and grief. Thank you for once again moving me, and while it may ring hollow from someone you do not know, you will be OK. Different, but OK.”
“Crawling at 102 days is impressive. When my dad died, it took me 3 years before I started crawling again. I used to say that grief felt to me like having an asteroid hit my home town, and being left to clean it up with a shovel. It's unbelievable, the wreckage you find yourself living in. You carry it around with you, and just hope the right people notice it and say something.”
“Grief, Rage, and Hatred. Sorrow and Shock. They become your family for a while. They'll always be proper names to me, since we all lived so intimately for so long. Good luck and a thousand embraces from a stranger. You never know just how deep your well of strength goes until you have to survive that shipwreck in the sea of broken glass. But somehow you impossibly do, as you move into the next 102 days.”
“Thank you for your courage and your candor. I've never read such a piercingly accurate portrait of grief. There is nothing we can say to ease your pain, but you are getting so much love from around the globe and I hope on some level you can feel it. For all grief has taken from you, I'm so glad you have Alice to be your touchstone. She will lead you back to the light when you are ready. ”
Oswalt wrote that he’s been putting any spare energy he’s been able to summon into finishing the book his wife was writing when she died. McNamara founded the website True Crime Diary, which covers both breaking stories and cold cases.
“And I'm going to start telling jokes again soon. And writing. And acting in stuff and making things I like and working with friends on projects and do all the stuff I was always so privileged to get to do before the air caught fire around me and the sun died,” he writes.
“It’s all I knew how to do before I met Michelle. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do now without her ...
“Okay, I’ll start being funny again soon. What other choice do I have? Reality is in a death spiral and we seem to be living in a cackling, looming nightmare-swamp. We're all being dragged into a shadow-realm of doom by hateful lunatics who are determined to send our planet careening into oblivion.
“Hey, there’s that smile I was missing!”